In the business world, we’re always talking about the importance of LinkedIn or attending networking events. We’re always trying to “leverage that contact.” What if it were as easy as just being ourselves — putting ourselves out there and drawing others back to us? (Sounds a bit like inbound marketing, no?) What if the secret is forming genuine relationships?
My grandfather is someone who is profoundly lucky. He’s humble and kind-hearted enough to use his luck to help others, and smart enough to avoid being used.
When he was leaving for the Korean War, he was in line in California to board a plane. As he moved to enter the aircraft, he was stopped and sent back to the line. The plane was full. He would have to wait.
That plane crashed and everyone on board was killed.
He figured he was spared for a reason and has, to use a cliché term, lived his life to the fullest since.
When he returned from war, he picked his life up where he’d left it. He and my grandmother started a family, and he eked out a living as a farmer, getting involved in different agricultural bureaus, farm show committees, and things of that ilk because of genuine interest. As he grew older, he retired as a dairy farmer and began raising beef cattle. He’s also operating a successful bird hunt. From September through April, his farm is full of pheasant, chukar, and quail hunters from all over the US. Even if it’s only a crockpot full of hot dogs, he feeds the hunters at no extra charge. He talks to them and gets to know them as people, not business clients, and for that reason, he sees many of them as regulars now. He’s built genuine relationships. Some of them enjoy the sport and company so much, in fact, that they go to the farm and help with the hunts.
Of course, having such a good heart, he doesn’t let those regular, dependable helpers walk away empty-handed.
My grandfather is, and has always been, a big fan of playing the lottery. Remember how I said his luck is profound? This man is forever stopping for lottery tickets on the way home and winning $20, $50, $200 or so. Keep all the money for himself? Ha. At the very least, he tips whomever sold him the ticket.
Not long ago, he won $1500. A local family had just, the day before, lost their home and thus all of their possessions in a fire. He gave them the money and said that they needed it more than he did. That’s who he is.
A few years back, he won a very large sum on a lottery scratch-off ticket. I won’t go into the exact amount (although I will say that by the time the lottery commission is done taxing your winnings, you see a little over half of what you won, but even that is more than what you had before, right?), but suffice it to say that there were only four winning tickets in the entire, enormous state of Pennsylvania.
Farming isn’t cheap, and neither is running a bird hunt (it’s not uncommon for him to spend $1300 or so at a time for bird feed). He lives in a 300 year old farm house that was in desperate need of restoration. It would have been very easy for him to use his money only on himself. After all, it was his luck that got it.
Instead, he gave some to each of his three children, giving them the option to pass a little bit on to their children in the way of paying off one major bill. He didn’t want anyone to waste the money on frivolous things. It was money to help us. He fixed up his house and used the money to help others that he knew really needed it (you can imagine the people who crawled out of the woodwork upon hearing that he’d won the lottery).
Money goes to a lot of people’s heads, but not to my grandfather’s. His humble attitude about his luck kept everyone else in check. In fact, unless you were told that he won the lottery, you’d never know. He’s still the same guy with deep laugh-lines etched into his farmer-tan face who knows someone everywhere he goes. The same guy who would use his luck to help others.
He is a master of forming genuine relationships, but he’s just being himself. His relationships aren’t built on luck or money. They’re built on his ability to connect with people.
Here’s the return on kindness, humbleness, and genuine relationship-building (and it applies to business, too): My grandfather is almost 81 years old. The other night, after spending the day cutting down four trees, moving lumber, and taking care of his birds and dogs, he suffered a heart attack.
In addition to family, his friends, without being asked, showed up to take care of the farm while he’s down. They keep the hunt going so he doesn’t lose business. They offered to take care of anything he needed to be done in town. They helped split wood to keep the house warm. These aren’t just his hunters (clients), people who owe him favors, or casual acquaintances. These are people with whom he’s formed genuine relationships. There’s something to be said for that in the business world.
So the next time you add that new contact on LinkedIn that you may never speak to again, ask yourself: Will that contact go to bat for you when you need it most?
What do you think? Is building genuine relationships a better business (and life) practice than collecting superficial contacts? Why or why not?
Image Source: Flickr/Mike Baird